New scheduled flights threatens charter flight operators to Cuba

Posted: 17-Aug-16 13:48

Commercial flights from the US to Cuba will soon become a reality and a troubling situation for the existing charter service. Operated by eight experienced carriers, these flights promise to be a quicker and more efficient option for travellers, leaving charter flights to an uncertain future.

New scheduled flights threatens charter flight operators to Cuba

After fifty years of hostility, the Cuban and American governments began to make amends on December 2014, with the opening of embassies in Washington and Havana. The peaceful exchanges and interactions that have since taken place between both countries have announced a series of positive changes including the re-establishment of regular air service.

Until now only scheduled charter flights were available, but just last month Cuban authorities and the American Department of Transport announced the launching of commercial flights from ten different cities in the US to several cities in Cuba. Though a significant step for the normalization process and great advantage for travellers, charter flight operators are now unsure about their future.

Responsible for transporting travellers between Cuba and the US during five decades of diplomatic rivalry, charter flight operators like Cuba Travel Service (CTS) now fear that their services will prove inefficient in comparison to commercial flights. As soon as this service begins, the company will start to reduce its routes, seeing they cannot compete with the eight experienced carriers that will operate commercial flights.

According to Emily Sanchez, spokesperson for CTS, “there is no point in continuing” as many airlines will offer daily flights to the island at competitive prices, and passenger demand will not be large enough to maintain the service. She concluded:

“It is impossible to vie with a huge airline; our range and scale are very different.”

If the Cuban government gives the final go-ahead, the new service could commence as soon as 31st August with the Fort-Lauderdale-Santa Clara route. In this case, it would be the very first US commercial flight in fifty years to land in Cuba, a historic event that will decide the destiny of charter operators.

These companies now face great instability as they are uncertain of what will come next or how ticket prices will vary. Given that big, prestigious airlines will now travel to the island, prices are expect to drop in comparison to usual charter rates which now fluctuate between $350 and $450 from Tampa or Miami. Charters won’t be able to lower their prices as big companies will do, or compete with low-cost prices like the ones offered by JetBlue, which has announced fares starting from only $99, including the health insurance plan required by the Cuban government. Sanchez explains:

“Landing rates in Cuba will be lower for commercial airlines in comparison to our own, which now stands at $45 per passenger.”

Enterprises offering charter flights like CTS, Marazul, Havana Air, Gulf Stream, Island, Travel & Tour and ABC Charters will now focus on different services. Advising other airlines and selling tourist packages that include services like car rentals and overseeing visa applications as well as informing US travellers about the 12 legal categories will be the two main activities these companies will now engage in.

Whatever the future holds for charter flight services, this new scenario will certainly provide passengers with a broader range of options. Most travellers are expected to arrive from Miami-Fort Lauderdale, New York-New Jersey and Tampa, home to the biggest number of Cuban Americans and the regions where the most flights will depart from.


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